God’s sovereign power includes both foreordination and foreknowledge, but it never removes our free will. Like Judas, we share in the accountability for the cross through our wrong choices. When we sin, we choose self-gratification over the life of Christ – a life freely given to those who repent and seek forgiveness.
Jesus answered, “You could have no power at all against Me unless it had been given you from above. Therefore the one who delivered Me to you has the greater sin.” (John 19:11)
There is a big difference between foreknowledge and foreordination, especially in the matter of the cross. Both, however, work within the context of the sovereign power of God, though they make allowance even here for the free will He has given man. We may look at Judas, for example, and imagine that he had no choice, that God foreordained that he would betray Christ. From this perspective, his suicide was a tragedy he could not avoid. This is entirely contradictory to what the Word teaches. Judas exercised His free will. He chose the thirty pieces of silver above his loyalty to Christ. Even in the moment where Jesus looks at him and tells him to ‘do it,’ he could still have changed his mind. God foreordained that He would be betrayed and had foreknowledge who would do it, but Judas was not compelled to make the wrong choice.
God’s sovereign power is absolute.
As a sovereign God, His power is absolute and His will and purposes fixed in heaven and earth. As a result, there are things that He foreordains and which cannot be changed. In today’s context, He foreordained that His Son would die on the cross for the salvation of mankind. He did not, however, ‘hand pick’ the religious leaders, Pilate, or Judas to do the dirty work. God did not create them specifically for this purpose, which would have deliberately damned them for eternity and removed their free will which He gives to all. In this, He had foreknowledge of who would be susceptible to the deceptions of the devil. In other words, by His sovereign power He ordained what would happen but had foreknowledge of who would make it happen. Because the cross was foreordained, man’s power over Jesus was allowed by God to fulfil His purposes.
Jesus isn’t ‘absolving’ Pilate and the other leaders of their responsibility. Pilate, who was Rome’s representative, could have released Jesus. This might well have stirred up trouble among the Jews and made him unpopular, but he had the choice. What Jesus highlights here is the sovereign power of God. The emphasis is on the truth that Jesus gave Himself to the cross as a willing sacrifice. Had He or God willed otherwise, no power on earth could have accomplished His death. This was a reminder to all leaders that all their power and authority is subject to the sovereign power of God. It reminds us that the Son of Man was also the Son of God and points the way to the ultimate authority and power He has over sin, death, and judgement. Despite this, Pilate and the religious leaders were accountable for their personal choice.
Satan and God’s sovereign power.
The journey of the cross is an indisputable revelation that the sovereign power of God is absolute, even and especially over Satan. There is no doubt that the devil knew Jesus was the Son of God. He thought, however, that as He had come as the Son of Man – completely human – he had the perfect opportunity to do away with Him. We must never forget that a few days before, Jesus had been welcomed into Jerusalem with praises and palm leaves. The contrast between this and the virulent, frenzied mob calling for His death reveals clearly that Satan had been at work. It’s a supernatural transformation that whipped up the religious leaders and the people to effect Satan’s purposes. But today’s verse applies as much to the devil as it does to the leaders. The power the enemy appeared to have was allowed by God for His sovereign purposes.
Satan was as deluded as those he deceived. While he watched Christ on the cross, relishing the truth that he had accomplished his death, God’s sovereign power remained at work. We can only imagine Satan’s rage at the resurrection and the full revelation of Christ’s victory. What should have been his moment of greatest triumph was his greatest defeat. The sovereign power of God over Satan was revealed to heaven and earth. The power the devil has over mankind will always be only that allowed by God. That he has any power over us at all is due to our choices, the exercise of our free will. He will continue to harass us and deceive us into believing he is more powerful than he actually is. And, as long as we continue to choose to allow him access, God will allow him a measure of power in our lives.
God’s sovereign power and our accountability.
We must never be too quick to write Judas off. It’s true that Jesus says his was the greater sin, but he is a type of every single human being. To understand this, we must look at the broader context. God’s sovereign power ordained that Christ would go to the cross as a willing sacrifice for all mankind. That includes everyone, even you and I. The reality is that if humanity was not sinful and rebellious, there would have been no need for the cross. On Calvary, Jesus carried the full weight of the guilt, sin, and punishment of every single person, past, present, and future. We, in effect, delivered Him over as much as Judas did. His actions were the physical outworking at a given moment in time of the spiritual truth of our accountability. We cannot escape the responsibility by being born before or after the fact.
Like Judas, we have God-given free will. When we sin, we make the same choice he did – we choose perceived personal self-gratification above the life of Christ. Every sin, even those we commit today, is included in the terrible burden our Saviour carried. Unless we accept this accountability, we cannot accept the grace of forgiveness. Mercy and forgiveness are achieved only through the cross. There is no other way. If any sin was not included in His great sacrifice, there can be no grounds for redemption from it. When we look at Judas from this perspective, we begin to more deeply understand our part in suffering and death of Christ and the great gift of salvation revealed in His resurrection. Thankfully, God’s sovereign power is such that He was able and willing to intervene. He took our accountability on Himself, provided we acknowledge our sins and repent.
Sovereign power and resurrection life.
When we consider the magnitude of the sins of mankind and their consequences, we begin to fully grasp the enormity of the cross. To simply be saved from these is a privilege and blessing beyond measure. But the sovereign power of God is perfect and complete. He does not only bring redemption and forgiveness, but He removes our sins completely. They never have the power to accuse us because His power has done away with everything that has been forgiven. Thereafter, He raises us up in resurrection life – the supernatural, abundant life of Christ which the reality of His power and authority over sin and the devil. We don’t deserve it and cannot earn it, yet it is ours in Christ. We are raised up not only as servants but as sons. This is grace, that those who delivered His Son to death now share in His glorious inheritance.
Father God, we stand in awe this morning when we consider Your sovereign power and immeasurable grace You extend to those who do not deserve it. Thank You for the reminder that if we wish to enjoy the forgiveness, we must also accept accountability. Change our hearts, Lord, so that we will learn to put Jesus first in every choice. Help us to seek Him in all things and to rather send self to the cross than to sin. Thank You for the assurance that even Satan is subject to Your authority, and that in Jesus, he has no hold or power over those You have redeemed.